FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - For two days, Rex Ryan has been talking about how "unusual'' it is for the Jets to finish their season series against the Patriots by Week 7.
But that's what the schedule-makers came out with. So Ryan has resorted to creative methods to get his players to give Week 15-type focus to what he calls "a game and a half.''
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"There's a lot to play for,'' Ryan said.
With that in mind, Ryan told his players this game is so important that they can't help around the house this week. No chores, no taking out the trash, no mowing the lawn, etc.
"I was just saying that if you have errands to run, if your wife wants you to mow the yard, whatever, just kind of put that at arm's length and say, 'We'll get to that next week,' '' Ryan said Thursday. "All the 'honey-dos' and all that stuff next week. We'll focus on this game, really being ready to roll on this game.''
It's unlikely he was being literal -- Ryan said he "of course'' took out the trash himself at home on Wednesday -- but most of his players seem to have gotten the message despite some initial confusion.
"It's about being focused, understanding what we've got to try to do,'' cornerback Antonio Cromartie said. "We understand where he's coming from from that standpoint. He wants everybody to be focused on what they need to try to do. This is a big week for us.''
Said defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson: "It was a joke. People take jokes seriously in the media, so let me be real right now: It was a joke. He wants us to know that the game is important. It's a rivalry game, it's a division game and we have to win it. That's about it.''
How big a game is it? Well, the Jets were supposed to be one of the worst teams in football. Instead, they are 3-3. A victory at home against the 5-1 Patriots would give the Jets some credibility as a possible Cinderella team in the AFC.
The Jets have lost five straight to New England, including a 13-10 defeat in Week 2.
"I respect them,'' linebacker Calvin Pace said. "I respect what they do. They have a system and they do things well. The thing I respect the most is they don't beat themselves. You've got to beat them.''
How that can be accomplished is what the Jets' real focus has been this week. Not trash bags, lawn clippings or anything else related to husbandly duties.
If yesterday's practice was any indication, Ryan feels good about how his message has been received.
"I thought it was outstanding,'' Ryan said. "Today was a great practice. I could tell the tempo was up, the focus was up. It has to be. It's sometimes tough to prepare for the no-huddle and all that that we get from New England. But we're doing our best to do that.''